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25/08/2016

EU ministers call for new neighbourhood policy

Europe's East

EU ministers call for new neighbourhood policy

Foreign ministers Laurent Fabius (France), Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Germany), und Rados?aw Sikorski (Poland) at a joint press conference in Weimar. [Auswärtiges Amt © photothek/Im]

In a joint meeting this week, foreign ministers from Poland, France and Germany called for greater accommodation of states that want to be closer to the European Union. EurActiv Germany reports.

We must ensure “that other parts of Ukraine do not also fall into Russia’s hands and become annexed by Russia,” said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a joint meeting of foreign affairs ministers on Monday (31 March).

Rados?aw Sikorski, Laurent Fabius and Steinmeier – the foreign ministers of Poland, France and Germany respectively – met in Berlin, and in Weimar, on Monday and Tuesday in the spirit of the “Weimar Triangle.” During the three-way exchange, talks were dominated by future perspectives for Ukraine, and relations with Russia.

Efforts are being made “primarily through political and diplomatic dialogue”, Steinmeier said, to turn the whole situation “in a direction where we have already cleared the peak of escalations.”

Amid reports of a light reduction in Russian troop concentrations at the border of Ukraine, the German foreign minister described the developments as only a “slight signal of relaxation”.

Common approach from the Weimar Triangle

On Monday evening, the foreign ministers agreed on a common position on Ukraine, in which they expressed their concerns over persistent tensions, and confirmed their ongoing support. In light of the NATO Council of Foreign Ministers on 1 April, they disclosed a forthcoming announcement, featuring a three-level approach by the alliance, towards the Crimea crisis.

After their meeting in Weimar on Tuesday, the ministers expressed their intention to strengthen partnerships with neighbouring countries by increasing civil society contacts, closer political cooperation, increased trade, and deepening economic integration. To accomplish this, a “new dynamic in European neighbourhood policy” is needed.

New routes must be found for those neighbour countries “who are not ready or able to take the path of an association agreement or a deeper and more comprehensive free trade area.”

Additional incentives should also be created for those countries, which are the furthest along in association with the EU. The next option, after a free trade agreement, should be participation in a common economic area, further integrating them into the EU internal market.

A central priority for the next European Commission will be to determine the span and the content of the common economic area, as well as its relationship with the European economic area, and the EU internal market. All potential areas for cooperation via the foreign policy dimension of EU internal affairs – on energy, environment and industrial cooperation, for example – must be examined.

 

Background

The former Ukrainian government announced on 21 November that it had decided to stop its preparations to sign an Association Agreement (AA) with the EU.

An Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on 28-29 November 2013 ended with a major disappointment for the EU, as Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovich, decided to put off the signature of a landmark Association Agreement (AA), coupled with a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade agreement (DCFTA). Meanwhile, Yanukovich turned to Russia, obtaining a $15 billion loan and cheaper gas.

Following the news that their country had turned to Russia, pro-European Ukrainians staged protests which developed into a popular revolution to oust Yanukovich.

Russia has put a great deal of pressure on its neighbour countries to prevent them from signing AAs with the EU. Armenia previously backed down from one,  saying it would join instead the Moscow-led Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan.